My next blog post in the series for getting to know the people behind the cartoons in my upcoming book features my friend, Christine Dits, who joined me and our mutual friends on a trip to the Grand Canyon this year.
Tell me about yourself
Hi! My name is Christine Dits. I am 24-year-old graduate student pursuing a Masters Degree in Speech-Language Pathology at Eastern Michigan University. I am originally from South Bend, IN. I currently reside in Ypsilanti, MI.
I come from a wonderful family of three siblings and my loving parents. In the summers, I grew up thoroughly enjoying family vacations in Colorado, Lake Michigan, North Carolina, Maine and Kentucky. For my main summer job, I painted houses for my Dad’s business. In the fall, I often was helping out with my parents’ Bed and Breakfasts for Notre Dame football games. Throughout the school year, I competed in many exciting, high school volleyball games.
I still enjoy playing competitive and recreational volleyball, dancing to Latin music, and watching comedies. My career goal is to become a fluency specialist and work as a speech-language pathologist in the hospitals with children and/or adults.
I took on the role of Chapter Leader for the NSA South Bend Chapter in 2011-12. Currently, I am serving as Co-Chapter Leader for the new NSA Ann Arbor Chapter in Michigan.
Tell me about your stuttering history
I began stuttering around nine years of age. Stuttering runs in my family – my maternal aunt stutters, and my late maternal grandfather was thought to have a stutter. I was not aware of my stutter until around age 12.
Stuttering didn’t begin to affect me emotionally and psychologically until age 16 when I was the target of occasional teasing and began feeling increasing anxiety and low self-esteem. The teasing, negative feelings, and stuttering openly with family and friends definitely made me even more aware of my stuttering. This heightened awareness only made the stutter worse.
For support, I participated in an email support group named “Neuro-Semantics of Stuttering” for two years in high school. This support group was truly the most formative experience in my journey of mastering stuttering through self-acceptance and self-honesty. I chatted with people from all over the world whose stuttering ranged from mild-severe.
I want to recognize John Harrison and Bob Bodenhamer for their instrumental work in showing me that recovery is very possible. They taught me that acceptance and more fluid speech is achievable through primarily eliminating your limiting belief system around stuttering and replacing that system with a more healthy, empowering belief system.
They taught me that stuttering does not have to control you anymore. My goal became to express myself freely, truthfully and honestly – not to become fluent. Once I did this, the stuttering slowly improved. I highly encourage readers to look up Bob’s and John’s work in the area of stuttering.
I received speech therapy at age 17/18 for only a few months. In therapy, I learned how to:
1) voluntary stutter
2) change my attitude about how I view myself and my speech
3) move towards self-acceptance
4) use the prolongation, cancellation and pull-out techniques.
At the end of therapy, my attitude towards speaking and my self-confidence definitely improved. My speech was still bumpy, but I began to see improvement in my speech the more I used my techniques over the years.
I still have anticipatory anxiety before occasional speaking situations, especially during introductions. However, I am working on pushing past those fears each day. I am at the place in my life where I do not allow stuttering to control me anymore.
I cannot control my emotions, but I can control what I do with those emotions. My stutter is still mild, but the way I speak does not define the person that I am.
Can you share a funny stuttering moment?
For the most part, I have been the object of more teasing than silly slip-ups. However, I do have one recent memory which I thought was pretty funny.
Sitting at dinner, my boyfriend asked me if I had a stutter one time when I really was just thinking of something to say while letting my mouth remain slightly open (looking like a block). I appreciated his care about my speech, but told him that I was not stuttering – I was just thinking of what to say next. We had a good laugh about that.
What advice would you give to children who stutter?
Know that there are bullies out there who may tease you about your stuttering in school and later in life. Be prepared for this. Remember, you do not have to explain yourself to these bullies, but simply state, “I am a person who stutters and I’m okay with that,” and walk away.
Don’t let anyone make you feel less than or inferior. You are a person worthy of love and respect. Surround yourself by positive and supportive friends, teachers, and family.
Do activities, sports and hobbies that you love and inspire you!
Express yourself in fun, goofy and creative ways.
The more love you have for yourself, the better you will be able to manage your feelings about stuttering and the stuttering itself.
And, as always, you are not alone with your stuttering. There are so many kids your age who stutter and feel the same way you do.
Your stuttering can only make you stronger over the years. You are and will continue to become a more compassionate, patient, and loving person through the life obstacles you will have to overcome.
You are so brave for living with this frustrating stutter and facing it head on each day. Know that there is always support through nearby speech therapists, the National Stuttering Association (conferences, local chapters and one-day workshops), Friends: The National Association of Young People who Stutter, The Stuttering Foundation, and by talking with others who stutter.
Stutter proudly, keep your head high, and keep being the wonderful YOU! 🙂
You’ve been reading a post in a blog series profiling the real people behind the caricatures I’m including in the stuttering advice book I’m creating. Stay tooned for more!